Highest Ground At Fore Of Niarchos Troupe


The Niarchos Family's Ketil | Scoop Dyga


While the world waits for better news, a clutch of exciting 3-year-olds wait in the wings for Classics that have now officially been delayed, and one such is 'TDN Rising Star' Highest Ground (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), who is ticking over for Sir Michael Stoute. Impressive when winning his sole start at Leicester in September, the Niarchos family's homebred met with a setback afterwards but is reported in fine shape by the owners' racing manager Alan Cooper.

It is forty years since the operation prevailed in Newmarket's G1 2000 with the Francois Boutin-trained wunderkind Nureyev only to lose it in the stewards' room. Last year, the Niarchos family were in partnership with Coolmore in Magna Grecia (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) who captured the mile Classic, making a total of 24 winners of that kind in Europe.

If the Guineas is delayed considerably in 2020, that may mean that some of the more unexposed types such as Highest Ground could come into the reckoning graced with more time to develop. However, Cooper said he is keen to stress that he is loathe to make predictions with the situation as grave as it is currently.

“I feel it would be wrong to talk about the future plans of the family's horses right now, when we are in the midst of such a crisis,” he says, but he was able to give some insight into the owners' more tantalising prospects for the season.

Of Highest Ground, he comments, “He had a little blip after his debut that we had to take care of–he needed arthroscopic surgery on his knee, but all is good and Sir Michael seems happy with him. He is in the hands of a master. The dam's side suggests he'd be more of a miler than a mile-and-a-quarter horse, but with maturity and Frankel's influence he could stay further. His ancestress Rare Mint (Key to the Mint) produced sprinters or milers, so it will be interesting to see.”

Others of note among the 3-year-olds are the Pascal Bary-trained Ketil (Karakontie {Jpn}) who was the winner of starts at Saint-Cloud and Deauville either side of a disappointing show when last of six in the latter venue's Listed Prix Isonomy. “He didn't like Deauville on that particular day and we don't know why,” Cooper says. “He has a [G1] Prix du Jockey Club entry and Pascal has been thinking about that for a while, but we'll have to wait and see. Pascal also has [the impressive ParisLongchamp winner] Greenland (War Front), who is another who may have Classic aspirations. Then we have Jessie's fillies Albigna (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) and Alpine Star (Ire) (Sea the Moon {Ger}) and the colt Free Solo (Ire) (Showcasing {GB}), but like everyone she is waiting to see when racing will resume.”

While it is too soon to envisage what the season will hold for the juveniles, Cooper reveals that the initial soundings have been positive from the trainers regarding the operation's 2-year-old crop. “The vibes are that we have some early types as well this year, but of the late-season sorts we have Light of My Eyes (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), a daughter of Divine Proportions (Kingmambo) with Jessie [Harrington], Val Bregaglia (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}), a full-sister to Cloth of Stars (Ire) who is with Willie McCreery and Valle de la Luna (GB) (Galileo {Ire}), out of Fiesolana (Ire) (Aussie Rules). They are thriving, but are back-end types.”

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